I was looking for my other pair of reading glasses when I found the picture. I had torn our bedroom apart, yelled at the kids and looked outside before finally deciding to dive into the dresser drawers – even though I knew they weren’t in there.
I sat down on the edge of the bed, the weight giving under me with a sigh. How long had it been since I had looked at that picture Months? A Year? Years? There used to be a time when I couldn’t go to bed at night without looking at it. When had that stopped? After my wife miscarried our first child, I think. She never knew about the picture. She was five months along when she lost the baby and our world(and relationship) came to a screeching halt. It took a long time to get both back on track.
I gently traced the outline of her body; brushed her hair. The smile beaming back at me brought tears to my eyes. I could smell her shampoo and the cherry Chapstick she always wore. I could hear her laugh; it was like champagne glasses being clinked together – gentle, high pitched, and always made you happy to hear.
She was the one. The one that I should’ve spent the rest of my life with. Instead? I killed her. I didn’t kill her myself, but I was the one that was driving the car when the drunk driver hit us head on.
We had a fight that night, and she was supposed to be staying over at my apartment, but decided she wanted to go home. She only lived across town – ten minutes tops – away from me. Maybe I was driving fast because I was angry. Maybe I was trying to be an asshole and wanted to scare her. Or maybe her words before we left my place scared me more than I admitted to myself: I think we should take a break. I feel like we’re always at each other’s throats for no reason. I love you and you love me, but maybe we should take a step back and see if this is what we both want.
I didn’t see the drunk driver weaving in the lanes in front of us. I didn’t see him hitting his breaks and then speeding up. I didn’t see it because I wasn’t paying attention. I was trying to be angry. I was breathing hard and kept tapping the steering wheel. I had turned up the radio when Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love came on so I wouldn’t hear her try to talk to me.
She tried to hold my hand, and I pushed her away. But looking back on it now, I’m not sure if she was trying to hold my hand or get my attention. The last word out of her mouth was a screaming NO, and I remember looking over at her bracing herself against the impact that was coming. Her arms straight and gripping the dash – I could see the muscles in her sun tanned arms. Her legs also straight out against the floor.
They said that the car in front of us had hit the center divider of the highway. It must’ve done at least two 360’s before slamming into us. I don’t remember any of that. I just remember waking up, and she was gone.
I love my wife, and I love my children. I wouldn’t give them up for the world. But this is not the life I was supposed to be living. This is the replacement life for the one that I destroyed.